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Attacking migraine pain

Having your head squeezed in a vise—that’s the best way to describe migraine pain. Migraines are an unpleasant part of life for some people, especially for women, who account for about 75 percent of sufferers.

Getting to the root of the pain

Could it be that your lifestyle brings on the pain? Sometimes, your diet is to blame. Foods that can trigger a migraine are:

  • alcohol, particularly red wine and beer
  • aged cheeses
  • chocolate
  • fermented, pickled or marinated foods
  • the artificial sweetener aspartame
  • excessive caffeine
  • monosodium glutamate (MSG)
  • canned and processed foods

If you don’t know what sets off your symptoms, jot down what time of day you experienced your migraine, where you were, what you were doing and where you were in your menstrual cycle in a headache “diary.” It can help your healthcare provider pinpoint your triggers.

Pain, pain go away!

Migraine medications should relieve pain during an attack or prevent the headaches from happening in the first place. For relief, your healthcare provider may first recommend aspirin or ibuprofen. If those don’t work, he or she may prescribe ergotamine or a triptan, medications that can dull the pain. Hormone therapy may work for some women whose migraines are triggered by their menstrual cycle.

If you experience migraines more than twice a month or headaches that keep you from performing daily tasks, medications aimed at preventing migraines may help. These drugs are normally used to treat other conditions, such as heart problems, seizures and depression, but they can be just the thing you need to fight off that pounding pain.